Three times champion Lauda dies
Three times world champion and Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda has died aged seventy. The Austrian had been struggling with health issues and underwent a double lung transplant in August that required a two-month stay in hospital.
He was then hospitalised again for a short period at the beginning of 2019 after contracting a flu infection. There have been reports from Austrian press in the recent days that he had been receiving kidney dialysis in Switzerland.
Lauda has been one of the key figures in the sport since the 1970s as a driver, team boss and union leader.
A life-changing accident at the Nürburgring would define his career and life. He crashed in a fire ball, leaving him with burns and many thought that his career and life would be over.
Lauda made one and arguably the most remarkable comebacks in sporting history, and only missed out on the championship by a single point to McLaren’s James Hunt.
His second title for Ferrari came in 1977, before Lauda moved to Brabham for the 1978 season.
His big achievements off the track, are varied, in the weeks after 1994 San Marino Grand Prix he worked with the drivers to reform the trade union of drivers, Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.
His second return to F1 with Mercedes, pulling off one of the biggest coups in recent times convincing Lewis Hamilton to leave McLaren to join the German manufacturer. This has laid the foundations for five drivers and constructors championships.
In January, Lauda spent ten days in hospital while suffering from influenza. He had previously had two kidney transplants, the second kidney donated in 2005 by his then-girlfriend Birgit Wetzinger.
He had three children.
Lauda tributes to “one of the greats”
F1 has been paying tribute to one of its most colourful personalities, Niki Lauda who died on Monday.
Mercedes F1 CEO Team principal Toto Wolff said: “First of all, on behalf of the team and all at Mercedes, I wish to send our deepest condolences to Birgit, Niki’s children, his family and close friends. Niki will always remain one of the greatest legends of our sport – he combined heroism, humanity and honesty inside and outside the cockpit.
Ferrari, where he won two of his titles, said “Today is a sad day for F1. The great Ferrari family learns with deep sadness the news of the death of our friend Niki Lauda, three times world champion, two with the Scuderia (1975-1977). You will remain forever in our hearts and in those of the fans. #CiaoNiki”
McLaren where he won his first title, “All at McLaren are deeply saddened to learn that our friend, colleague and 1984 Formula 1 World Champion, Niki Lauda, has passed away. Niki will forever be in our hearts and enshrined in our history.”
Driver Carlos Sainz added “Very saddened to hear that Niki Lauda has passed away. One of the last proper heroes of our sport, a true gentleman, and a great human.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, “Shocked by the loss of Niki Lauda. He was a true legend in our sport and someone I had great respect for. May he rest in peace #RIPNiki”
Formula One Group, Chairman & CEO Chase Carey “Formula 1 has lost not only one of the truly great exponents of the sport but also one of its heroes. His love of racing and the courage he demonstrated were simply extraordinary and he inspired so many fans. His passing is a great loss for the entire Formula 1 family and motorsport as a whole”
FIA president, Jean Todt “Niki Lauda was a hero of motorsport, who inspired me in my youth. He is a milestone in the history of @F1. All my thoughts go out to his family, friends and @MercedesAMGF1 team. #NikiLauda #F1”
Three-time world champion Jackie Stewart told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “During that accident, he died twice and was resuscitated. Recovering from that accident, he came to Monza [for the Italian Grand Prix], which I was doing commentary for. He shouldn’t have been there but wanted to get back to racing.”
Ron Howard, director of the film Rush “RIP the Great #NikiLauda. Here’s our last meeting in #MonteCarlo in ‘18 We first met while making the movie Rush. The F1 world knows of his grit & intensely competitive spirit, but that matched w/his keen intelligence & wisdom made him a distinctively remarkable man. a force.”
Daniel Bruhl, who played Lauda in the film Rush, “The bravest man, I’ve ever met, not only because he was an F1 World Champion in the crazy 70s and had the most incredible comeback in sport’s history, but also because of how he treated people.”
Honda should target Mercedes – Gasly
Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly says that Honda’s progress this season means that the manufacturer should be beating Mercedes in the power stakes.
While Ferrari is believed to have the best engine, the Frenchman believes that Honda’s step forward in 2019 means it is now within reach of Mercedes – which once had the benchmark power unit.
Asked by Motorsport.com, how far behind Mercedes Honda was, Gasly said: “Not too far. At the moment, Ferrari clearly stands out in terms of straight-line speed. The one we need to target, Mercedes, is sort of more or less in the middle.”
Gasly praised the performance step forwards this year and says that reliability wise things are pretty smooth and everything was better.
He added “Performance wise we have quite a lot more than we had last year. Reliability, things run pretty smoothly since the beginning of the season for us, so honestly, everything is improved.”
However, he admitted that there was still a clear gap to Ferrari when it comes to straight-line speed but believe that it is possible if they keep pushing.
Rio unveils layout for Brazilian GP
A layout has been unveiled by the Rio de Janeiro circuit that wants to take over the Brazilian Grand Prix, but only once Interlagos’s deal expires.
Yesterday a US consortium said it has been awarded a tender to build the circuit. It also says that it has a thirty-five-year concession to build on military land, after emerging as the only group to submit a proposal.
Despite claims from Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro that the new Rio circuit would immediately take over the Brazilian GP from 2020, Interlagos is expected to host the race again next year, which is the final one of its current contract.
However, the race being retained by Sao Paulo has been boosted after the city’s council voted to extend its Brazilian GP deal, but the construction of the new Rio circuit presents a major rival for 2021 and beyond.
The circuit has been designed with the help of track designer Hermann Tilke, has been altered since the first designs were presented last year. It is not being named after Ayrton Senna as was indicated when Bolsonaro first announced the new venue’s F1 aspirations earlier this month.
Tilke, who has designed most new circuits since 1990s, told Motorsport.com “The proposal we have brought to Rio seeks to present a picture of a modern track, dynamic and full of emotion.”
“At the same time, we think of a space with a multidisciplinary approach that allows a very wide range of use in other sports, serving the whole community”
A “Dangerous” gamble on 2021
Renault’s executive director Marcin Budkowski believes its too “dangerous” for teams to take a gamble by switching to 2021 regulations, despite the advantages a head start would give.
Ahead of the changes for 2021, the teams are already looking towards the changes and whether to switch resources to the development of the current cars or to invest more in longer-term plans because of the advantages it could bring.
But Budkowski thinks the fact that the rules are unchanged for 2020 actually means that there is less to gain now by devoting effort towards 2021 because there is a danger of falling too far behind next year.
Asked by Motorsport.com if there was a temptation to switch focus to 2021 already, Budkowski said: “I doubt it because 2020 at the moment looks like a year of regulation stability, so whatever you are doing today on 2019 will benefit you in 2020.
“If you stop any development on 2019 now you will hurt in 2019 and 2020. It could be a possibility next year because the impact would only be on 2020, but at the moment it is too dangerous. However, it is a balancing act.”
Budkowski says that teams are needing to juggle three projects and that may need to make compromises and priorities. He described the 2021 changes as an important milestone.
The balancing of resources could be further complicated by the cost cap coming in, which could require a complete overhaul of team infrastructure.
He says until the cap is announced and its clear what is and isn’t included it is very difficult to plan ahead,
Adding “So you can keep the level and change the perimeter and you have effectively changed the level by doing so. So both level and perimeter are still being debated, and at the moment it is fairly high.”
McLaren responding better than 2018
McLaren says its hopes of good progress this year has been boosted by its 2019 car has reacted better to upgrades that the team’s car did not last year.
The British team has made a strong start to the season after the teams switched last year from Honda to Renault engines exposed problems with its team and prompted a major reshuffle of the organisation. The switch was prompted by the underperforming Honda engines.
Team principal Andreas Seidl’s first race with the outfit in Spain coincided with a major car update, which included a shift of concept for its front wing design. Seidl, however, played down the significance of the changes, saying it is hugely encouraging that the updates had a clear impact on car performance.
This is in contrast to the fundamental issues that McLaren’s 2018 car had, when any developments the team tried out failed to deliver any uplift. Seidl told Motorsport.com, “The good thing this year is that we have a car that is actually reacting to the updates that we are bringing.”
“I got it from the guys back home and the racing guys [at the track], the issue last year was that whatever they did the car simply didn’t react to the updates. So that is very, very positive.”
“This is also giving a positive spirit inside the company at the moment. We all know it is a development battle in the midfield where we fight at the moment,” He added. Seidl says that it is important to have a car which can be developed through the season.
Although McLaren failed to make it through to Q3 in Barcelona, the German still believes that the upgrades did deliver a good step forwards. He says that straight away the data began to deliver what the team had expected
Comparing Barcelona and Shanghai he says it shows that the car was reacting, but admits that it too early for him to judge what needs to change at the team to move it forward.
Saying “I think it is important now that I take my time also to really get into the details of what is existing at Woking and how is the team working. And then it will be about working closely together with the key players in the team to get ready for the future.”
Seidl’s says that he has to work out a clear vision and plan with CEO Zak Brown to how they approach the coming years. He acknowledged that there were big challenges ahead with the new regulations.